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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

US State Department claims China and Russia conspiring to rewrite coronavirus narrative

Jack Burton

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US State Department claims China and Russia conspiring to rewrite coronavirus narrative | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Getty Images
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The US yesterday accused China and Russia of cooperating to spread false claims the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming Beijing is increasingly adopting techniques perfected by Moscow. Lea Gabrielle, coordinator of the US State Department’s Global Engagement Centre, which tracks foreign propaganda, told reporters:

“Even before the Covid-19 crisis we assessed a certain level of coordination between Russia and the People’s Republic of China in the realm of propaganda. But with this pandemic the cooperation has accelerated rapidly.”

“We see this convergence as a result of what we consider to be pragmatism between the two actors who want to shape public understanding of the Covid pandemic for their own purposes”

The Global Engagement Centre has publicly said that thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts are spreading conspiracies about the pandemic, including that the virus, first detected last year in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, was created by the USs.

There has been plenty of finger pointing and diplomatic bickering, and China outraged the US when a foreign ministry spokesman tweeted a conspiracy that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan. China in turn has posted numerous videos mocking the US’ disastrous reaction to the pandemic.

The two countries eventually reached an informal rhetorical truce in late March after telephone talks between President Donald Trump and his counterpart Xi Jinping, but tensions are soaring again as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushes the theory that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory, a stance that Beijing calls “disinformation.”

Both the World Health Organisation, the US government’s top epidemiologist Dr Anthony Fauci, the international Five Eyes intelligence network and numerous epidemiologists, say there is no evidence and it is scientifically highly unlikely that the virus came from a lab, with most scientists saying it emerged at a Wuhan meat market that butchered exotic animals.

China’s ambassador to the US recently bemoaned what he says is an effort to brand “objective facts as disinformation and propaganda.”

“Behind the mind-set of ‘always blame China’ is a kind of dirty politics, championed by a few people who shift the spotlight for political gain.”

President Xi on Friday discussed cooperation over the pandemic in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia opposes the attempts by some forces to use the epidemic as a pretext to blame China and will stand firmly by China’s side.”

The two countries often find common ground and clash with the US on issues from Venezuela to the use of economic sanctions and disarmament. According to the Global Engagement Centre, China has ramped up its online campaign to defend its handling of the pandemic, which has killed some 276,000 people worldwide, and criticise the US.

“Beijing is adapting in real time and increasingly using techniques that have long been employed by Moscow”

“I think there are some examples where we have basically seen a narrative pushed out by a state actor then repeated by another one. So we’re certainly seeing them bounce off of each other and essentially play together in the information space.”

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | WION

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Mayor’s statement sparks hope Chonburi beaches may reopen soon

Maya Taylor

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Mayor’s statement sparks hope Chonburi beaches may reopen soon | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bang Saen beach, Chonburi - Wikimedia

A Facebook post from the mayor of Saen Suk, home to the renowned Bangsaen beach, says beaches “may” reopen from June 1. (Before you ask, there is currently no official information on when Bangsaen, Pattaya or Phuket’s beaches may actually reopen.)

Beaches in the eastern province of Chonburi were closed nearly two months ago as authorities enacted strict lockdown measures to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Chonburi has now had no new reported cases of the virus for more than 30 days and residents are getting antsy over the ongoing beach closures.

Authorities continue to state that the closures are to prevent unlawful gatherings and the risk of people travelling from nearby provinces, such as Bangkok, thereby causing a second wave of infections. Bangkok has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the country. Despite this, local expats and Thais are demanding that Chonburi’s beaches be reopened, particularly in light of this happening in other resort areas such as Hua Hin.

The Pattaya News reports that Bangsaen beach reopening does not necessarily mean Pattaya’s beaches could also reopen as that decision lies with Pattaya’s civic officials. Despite Pattaya not having any new reported cases of the virus for over 40 days now, Pattaya City Hall authorities remain concerned about mass gatherings, the consumption of alcohol and the risk that social distancing measures would not be adhered to were they to reopen the city’s beaches.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Emergency Decree extended through June amidst accusations of political motivation

Jack Burton

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Emergency Decree extended through June amidst accusations of political motivation | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin - NNB

As widely predicted, the Cabinet yesterday extended the Emergency Decree for a third month, to its limit at the end of June. Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, quickly explained that the decree was enforced because it enabled more than 40 laws to be tied together to allow for quick enforcement at the national level. He says this helps the government tackle the crisis more efficiently.

Last week, government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat hinted that the National Security Council wanted to extend the decree “because it would save lives”. She also dismissed as “illogical” claims that the state of emergency was being extended so PM Prayut Chan-ocha could tighten his hold on power.

But non-profit organisation iLaw says the government should use a less restrictive, less severe method to impose controls on businesses, travel and public health. For instance, it could enforce the Contagious Disease Control Act to stop people gathering outside their homes, and close high-risk venues, as the act is more flexible than the Emergency Decree.

The panel chaired by the National Security Council’s secretary-general is meeting today to discuss the third phase of easing lockdown measures, as well as whether the curfew hours should be cut a second time, from the current 11pm-4am to midnight-4am. The third phase of easing measures is thought to begin June 1.

The meeting’s resolution will be proposed to the CCSA on Friday and guidelines for businesses and activities under the third phase will probably be announced Saturday.

Meanwhile, police in Bangkok are denying using the Emergency decree as a political tool after the arrest of 2 activists on Friday, saying they were simply doing their job.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 update: 9 new cases, all imported (May 27)

Jack Burton

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Covid-19 update: 9 new cases, all imported (May 27) | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Reuters

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration announced 9 new cases of Covid-19 at this morning’s daily press briefing. All 9 were ‘imported’ cases by Thai nationals returning from overseas, “bringing attention to the importance of the state quarantine process and border control”, according to CCSA spokesman Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin.

Of the 9 cases, two recently returned from the US. The two males, aged 18 and 27, flew back on May 12 and were found to be infected yesterday, the last day of their state quarantine. Both were asymptomatic. 6 students, aged 23 – 33, returned from Saudi Arabia. They first flew to Malaysia and then transferred to the Padang Besar border checkpoint. Officials of both countries suspect that the checkpoint is now a Covid-19 hotspot and should be closed for sanitation. 4 of the patients had high fever and cough, while two were asymptomatic.

A 34 year old masseur returned from Qatar on Friday with a high fever, coughing and no sense of smell during state quarantine. He tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.

Covid-19 update: 9 new cases, all imported (May 27) | News by The Thaiger

Dr. Taweesin suggested Thai nationals in Malaysia hurry up if they want to return home as the checkpoint is likely to be temporarily closed soon.

All international arrivals are banned until at least the end of June, and borders are closed, with the exception of Thai Nationals returning from abroad. Every Thai national must go through a mandatory state quarantine of 14 days which includes Covid-19 testing.

The fact that all 9 cases are imported makes today the second day in a row without a new locally transmitted case. Thailand has had a total of 3,054 cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak. 2,931 of the cases have fully recovered and been released with 2 new recoveries in the past 24 hours, leaving the recovery rate at 96%.

There are 66 cases remaining in hospital under treatment nationwide, with the majority being imported cases according to CCSA officials.

No new deaths were reported today, leaving the nation toll at 57.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News | Nation Thailand

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